3 Vaccination Tips You Need to Know if Your Dog Has a Medical Condition

14 September 2016
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As a dog owner, you value your dog's health and want to ensure that you make the right medical decisions for your pet. For most healthy dogs, this means ensuring that your canine companion receives their recommended vaccinations on schedule. However, if your dog already has a medical condition, you might be hesitant to introduce vaccines into their system. Take a look at what you need to know about vaccinating a dog that has a medical condition.

Temporary Illnesses

Just like humans, dogs are prone to catching the occasional cold or stomach bug. Whether your dog should be vaccinated when ill or recovering from an illness is a question of timing, and it should be resolved on an individual basis. Your dog should definitely be vaccinated; you and your vet just need to decide whether or not it should happen now or be delayed until they recover.

Your vet will need to examine the dog to decide whether or not their vaccines should be delayed. Be sure to fill the doctor in on any symptoms you've noticed. Your vet may also want to run some lab tests to rule out serious illness. If your dog isn't running a high fever or showing signs of an immune disorder, and their symptoms are not severe, then your vet will probably recommend going ahead with the shots.

When Taking Medications

When your dog is recovering from an illness, they may be taking an antibiotic. Dogs recovering from injury or surgery may be prescribed pain meds. Your dog may need antiparasitic drugs for worms or antifungal drugs for yeast infections. With all of these common medications, it's usually OK to vaccinate your dog as long as they're otherwise healthy.

Some medications, however, can be a bad idea with certain vaccines. One of the most common types of medications that may cause a problem are glucocorticoids like prednisone, which are used to treat conditions like Addison's disease and allergies. These medications reduce inflammation, but they also repress the immune system. For this reason, it's usually not a good idea for your dog to be vaccinated with live-virus versions of vaccines.

Live-virus vaccines use a weakened version of a real virus to provoke an immune response and provide immunity. Healthy dogs will be able to fight off the weakened virus without becoming dangerously ill. However, if your dog is taking glucocorticoids, their immune system may not be capable of fighting off the weakened version of the virus. Depending on the dose of medication the dog is on and their overall health condition, your dog may still be able to receive vaccines that are not made with live viruses.


Ideally, a pregnant dog shouldn't need to be vaccinated at all, because they would have received their vaccinations on schedule and be up to date during pregnancy. However, if you've missed or delayed a vaccination due to forgetfulness, illness, or some other circumstance, or if you've recently acquired a pregnant dog whose medical history you're unsure of, you'll have some decisions to make about vaccination.

While no vaccine is without risk, the risk of vaccinating a pregnant dog for conditions like parvovirus, distemper virus, or hepatitis are low. If you have any reason to suspect that your dog may be exposed to these vaccines during pregnancy, vaccinating is likely to be the safer course of action. It's not uncommon for breeders to vaccinate female dogs during pregnancy to improve immune protection for the puppies. However, pregnant dogs, like dogs taking glucocorticoids, should not be given live-virus vaccines. Not only is the mother's immune system under stress and possibly not up to fighting off the weakened viruses, the puppies' immature immune systems may also not offer them much protection against the viruses in live-virus vaccines.

Any decision to delay or skip vaccinations should only be made with the advice and input of your dog's veterinarian—you should never decide unilaterally to skip or delay a vaccination. For more information about pet vaccinations, you should naturally talk to your dog's vet.